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Pediatricians Urged to Screen for Maternal Depression

Researchers find that simple screening process takes little time and pays preventive dividends

WEDNESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Pediatricians are in a unique position to conduct routine and brief maternal-depression screenings during well-child visits, according to a study published in the July issue of Pediatrics.

Ardis L. Olson, M.D., of Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, N.H., and colleagues implemented a brief screening process at three rural practices that used it to screen 1,398 mothers using the two-question Patient Health Questionnaire.

The screenings showed that 17 percent of the mothers had one depressive symptom and that 6 percent were at risk for a major depressive disorder. In 62.4 percent of cases in which mothers screened positive, and 38.2 percent of cases in which mothers had lesser symptoms, the pediatricians intervened with actions that included a discussion of the impact on the child, a follow-up visit or phone call, or a referral to an adult primary care provider, a mental health clinician, or community supports. Discussion time of screening results was generally short, with the vast majority of such discussions taking less than five minutes.

"The time spent helping depressed mothers function better may pay preventive dividends in the child's mental health and healthy development," the authors conclude. "We hope that our findings help pediatric clinicians detect mothers at risk for depression, with realistic expectations about the time and parent-clinician interaction involved in implementing routine maternal depression screening."

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